If you abuse alcohol or have an alcohol addiction, you may want to quit drinking. This may be because you do not wish to continue making bad decisions when intoxicated. Likewise, you may have been advised to stop drinking by a healthcare professional due to side effects such as the risk of liver damage or high blood pressure.
Although you may think you can stop drinking independently, it is extremely important not to quit cold turkey, especially if you drink regularly. This can be very dangerous, and you should always seek professional help or advice.
The safest way to quit alcohol is to detox under medical supervision. Although detoxing can cause side effects, such as nightmares and other alcohol withdrawal symptoms, completing this stage of treatment is in your best interest.
Quitting drinking can be daunting, but support is available via local rehab centers, such as our own.
Related: Alcohol and sleep
What Are the Immediate Effects of Drinking Alcohol?
Although somewhat commonplace in our society, it might be surprising to learn that alcohol is a powerful drug. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol slows down messages sent between the body and brain.
People usually drink to enhance good spirits when celebrating, mask bad feelings, such as trauma, or cope with a mental illness. Often, this is because alcohol can cause a state of euphoria. However, the immediate effects of drinking can be harmful, with symptoms including:
- Impaired judgment
- Poor balance and coordination
- Reduced inhibitions
- Slurred speech
- Increased relaxation
- Delayed reflexes
- Lowered blood pressure
Many studies have shown that alcohol can be bad for your health and well-being, especially if drinking guidelines are overlooked. Government guidelines suggest up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, but none at all if you are underage, pregnant, or taking certain medications. If in doubt, it is best to speak to a health care physician.
Excessive alcohol consumption can gradually lead to addiction and adverse health effects. If you find yourself losing control of your alcohol use and want to stop drinking, seek professional help.
What Happens to Your Body When You Abuse Alcohol?
Heavy drinking or binge drinking is known as alcohol abuse. People may engage in heavy drinking such as binge drinking for the high, peer pressure, or because drinking blocks out destructive feelings.
Alcohol abuse affects your physical and psychological health. It may not seem like it, but alcohol can be dangerous when abused. It can be challenging to ascertain whether you engage in harmful drinking habits, but signs usually include:
- Slow breathing
- Low body temperature
- Being conscious but unresponsive (stupor)
- Passing out
Other consequences of binge drinking include injuries, such as burns or falls, being more likely to engage in violence or be the victim of a violent crime, unprotected sex that can result in sexually transmitted infections (STI’s), and driving under the influence. Binge drinking can also result in alcohol poisoning when too much alcohol is consumed quickly.
If you or someone you love has suspected alcohol poisoning, call 911 for immediate medical attention. A person with alcohol poisoning is incredibly vulnerable to injury, harm, and even death.
What Are the Effects of Prolonged Alcohol Abuse?
Abusing alcohol for a prolonged period puts your long-term health at risk. Although your liver metabolizes alcohol in your body and can handle moderate and infrequent drinking if it has enough time to recover, through long-term alcohol abuse, the liver struggles to regenerate cells killed by alcohol. For this reason, alcohol leaves a mark on your whole body, including your brain.
Long-term effects of heavy drinking include a variety of health issues such as:
- Liver disease, liver scarring (cirrhosis), fatty liver, hepatitis, and fibrosis
- Heart disease and heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Chronic pancreatitis, which can lead to pancreatic cancer
- Kidney disease
- Cancers of the throat, mouth, breast, bowel, colon, pancreas, and liver
- Brain damage and alcohol-related dementia
While the effects of alcohol are often long-term, it is possible to reverse or limit any potential damage by stopping drinking.
What Are the Signs of Alcohol Addiction?
Addiction creeps up slowly when no one is looking. You might not realize you have a problem with drinking until you sit and think about your actions and behavior.
You might have an alcohol addiction if you:
- find yourself drinking at inappropriate times, such as in the morning.
- have an overwhelming urge to drink.
- hide the extent of your drinking from friends and family.
- prioritize drinking over school, work, or things you used to enjoy.
- engage in risky behavior related to drinking, such as driving under the influence.
- continue to drink despite adverse effects and consequences to your health and life.
- want to stop drinking but can’t.
There is no shame in having an addiction – it can happen to anyone. But you don’t have to suffer in silence and live with a drinking problem. Recovery is just around the corner if you seek it.
How Do I Recover From Addiction?
Alcohol addiction is also known as an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and a substance abuse disorder (SAD). As addiction is an illness, you will require treatment to begin your recovery journey.
The only way to recover from a physical addiction is via a detox. Detoxing can be challenging, and although this can be done in your own home as an outpatient through a rehab facility if suitable, it is best to detox within a specialized facility where you can receive around-the-clock supervision and care.
Detoxing purges the body of all alcohol and drug traces, enabling recovery to begin. The detox process can be unpleasant due to withdrawal symptoms, but it only lasts about a week for the average person.
What Are Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
Withdrawal symptoms can start from the first few hours after your last drink.
Common physical symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever and sweating
Meanwhile, psychological symptoms can include:
- Mood swings
Although rare, you may experience delirium tremens (DTs). Symptoms of DTs include:
- Mental confusion
- Impaired consciousness
- Deep sleep
People detoxing at home without medical supervision may resort to drinking to ease withdrawal symptoms such as DTs. This is why it is in your best interest to detox at a rehab center. Medication such as benzodiazepines can be administered to sedate and calm you during the initial stages of DTs.
Why Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Nightmares?
Everyone has their own sleep architecture. However, sleep follows a typical pattern.
It has long been established that there are two types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). NREM is divided into four stages of the cycle:
- Stage one – This is the first stage (N1) and typically lasts one to five minutes as we fall asleep, although time varies depending on the individual. Sleep disruption can occur in this cycle. But if it does not, you move on to stage two.
- Stage two – This second stage (N2) is NREM sleep. This is one of the most prolonged cycles, which lasts up to sixty minutes.
- Stage three – This is the slow-wave sleep stage (N3), an essential stage of NREM as it is our deep sleep and lasts up to forty minutes. We need this stage of sleep for growth and restoration.
- Stage four – REM sleep is the fourth stage and is crucial for brain function.
Throughout the night, we cycle between REM and NREM sleep. Each cycle lasts approximately ninety minutes. NREM sleep makes up about 80% of our total sleep, while REM accounts for 20%. REM sleep is categorized by rapid eye movement, low muscle tone, and dreaming. We do most of our dreaming during our REM cycle.
Both alcohol and alcohol cessation play havoc with our brain chemistry and natural REM cycle. Alcohol decreases REM sleep, but withdrawal gives us prolonged REM sleep, called REM rebound. REM rebound can cause extremely vivid dreams, nightmares, and night terrors. This can be unpleasant, but it is important to stick with it and trust the process.
When recovering from an alcohol use disorder, this cycle imbalance may last for a few weeks. Following this, your sleep cycle reverts to normal.
Contact Us Today
When all traces of alcohol leave your body, you can focus on why you turned to alcoholism in the first place. This requires ongoing outpatient care, support, and therapy, including group therapy. By learning healthy coping mechanisms and understanding your triggers for drinking, you will have the best chance at long-term sobriety.
To find out more about why alcohol withdrawal causes nightmares or learn more about the treatments we provide, please get in touch with us today.